UC Berkeley lifts suspension of course labeled anti-Israel by critics

Student facilitator for ‘Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis’ says he expects apology over temporary ban on program

The University of California, Berkeley. (Charlie Nguyen/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0/via JTA)
The University of California, Berkeley. (Charlie Nguyen/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0/via JTA)

The University of California, Berkeley, reinstated a student-led course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” a week after it suspended the program following an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university’s academic standards.

The suspension was lifted on Monday the Middle East Eye reported.

Paul Hadweh, the UC Berkeley undergraduate student who facilitates the course, said he expects an apology from Carla Hesse — the dean of the College of Letters who initially suspended the course — and Science and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

“The university threw me under the bus, and publicly blamed me, without ever even contacting me,” Hadweh said in a statement. “It seems that because I’m Palestinian studying Palestine, I’m guilty until proven innocent. To defend the course, we had to mobilize an international outcry of scholars and students to stand up for academic freedom. This never should have happened.”

According to Liz Jackson, an attorney representing Hadweh, the announcement came from Hesse who “issued a letter this morning notifying everyone that the suspension is lifted.”

“It’s definitely a victory for Paul and the 26 students enrolled in the class who all had their studies severely disrupted and no question, for students and scholars across the US because there is such a documented, coordinated attack on the right to speak and study freely about Palestine-Israel,” added Jackson.

The university made the decision to suspend the course last Tuesday after determining that Hadweh, whose family is from Bethlehem in the West Bank, “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program” for student-led courses, said Dan Mogulof, the school’s assistant vice chancellor.

A day earlier, Berkeley Hillel and its international umbrella group had called on the university’s president, Janet Napolitano, and administrators to condemn the one-credit course in a strongly worded statement.

“Any perusal of the syllabus will show that this is a one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda,” Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman said in the statement. “It does not tell the truth. It ignores history. It ignores facts, such as the inconvenient one that Jews have inhabited Israel for 3,000 years. This course seems to be a matter of political indoctrination in the classroom and is a violation of the newly adopted principles by the UC regents on intolerance.”

The course was to be offered as part of the university’s DeCal program in which students propose and teach one-credit courses under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Other DeCal classes offered this academic year include “Cal Pokeman Academy,” “Art Anatomy” and “Science in Oakland Elementary Schools.”

The course syllabus said it would cover the history of Palestine from the 1880s to the present and “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” Students were to be required to attend an event “relating to Palestine” during the semester and make a final presentation proposing a “decolonial alternative” to the region’s problems not restricted to the two-state solution.

Forty-three Jewish and educational organizations signed a letter by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that monitors anti-Semitism in higher education, addressed to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks expressing deep concern about the course.

“A review of the syllabus … reveals that the course’s objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government’s criteria for anti-Semitism and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish State and take action to eliminate it,” the letter said.

The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”

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